By Ross Forman
The 15-team Metro Girls League – with 3 teams not returning and 3 new teams joining – may be its strongest ever, led by the talented Romans Orange crew that skates into the 2021-2022 season as the No. 1-ranked Illinois Girls High School Hockey Team.
New Trier Blue is second, followed by Loyola, Naper Valley and Upper Fox Valley. Fenwick is No. 6, followed by New Trier White, Barrington, Glenbrook and Maine to round out the top 10.
“The league has gotten good, really good,” said Fenwick head coach Mason Strom, in his 11th season. “I look at our schedule and every single game, if we don’t come ready to play, things are not going to go well for us; that shows how deep the whole league is.”
Warren Township, the Rebels and Lake Forest Academy are not returning this season. LFA is opting for an independent schedule. New this season to Metro Girls are second varsity teams from Fenwick and New Trier, plus the co-op Burlington West Grizzlies, a mix of players from high schools in the western suburbs, such as Downers Grove, Hinsdale and Willowbrook.
“I feel this is the best the league overall has ever been,” Strom said. “There’s always have been contenders and there always have been a few teams near the bottom, and everyone else falls somewhere in between. I think this is the deepest the league has ever been. The parity of the league is outstanding, which speaks volumes to the competition within the league.”
The Metro Girls league will have a preseason tiering round the first few months of the season. Teams then will be placed into two divisions based on standings: the Founders Cup and Scholastic Cup.
Strom is excited for his Fenwick crew, though he knows the unknown weighs heavy on the team’s future.
“We had a pretty good season going during the 2019-2020 season, riding high heading into the semifinal game against New Trier. But 48 hours before the game, it was canceled,” said Strom, who noted that Fenwick had some scrimmages during what would have been the 2020-2021 season, but not much more.
The team has turned over almost completely from the Friars unit that was pushing for the 2020 state championship.
“I think everyone is excited to get back to some form of status quo. The juniors and seniors definitely feel like there’s unfinished business,” that needs to be addressed, Strom said. “We have a deep group of defensemen which I’m really excited about. We have some returning forwards, but most of our new faces are at forward. We just have to find chemistry.”
Fenwick has two freshmen goalies: Mya Gertsein and Chrysoula Dafnis, with Dafnis expected to be the starter for the team’s opener.
The Friars’ defense has Strom “really excited,” he said, as it is a senior core, experienced and leaders. “This is where the (team) energy is coming from,” Strom said.
Cuora Sullivan, Elizabeth Mack and Brynne West are defensive stars.
Fenwick’s offense is “very exciting,” Strom said. The offense is quick and skilled. The biggest negative for the team’s O is simply unfamiliarity with one another.
Mari Wolkstein might be the team’s breakout player on defense, while Gabriella Sramek is one-to-watch on offense.
“I feel like I’m starting over, like it’s my first season because we haven’t played a game of substance in about 19-months,” Strom said. “But there’s a fresh, new, exciting quality to the team, especially with so many new players the past two years.
“There definitely is a buzz, an excitement on the club.”
Here is the Illinois Girls High School Hockey Top 10 Rankings (as of Sept. 27), as compiled by Ross Forman:
1. Romans Orange
2. New Trier Blue
4. Naper Valley
5. Upper Fox Valley
8. New Trier White
9. Maine Township